SportsPulse: The Big Ten East came in with a ton of hype, but USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken discusses why the SEC West is hands down better.
The debate over the best division in college football has been settled. Believe it or not, there was once such a debate. The traditionalists were right. The contrarians were wrong.
In the defense of being contrarian, there was a case to be made for the Big Ten East. It wasn’t just because of Ohio State, though there was once a time when the Buckeyes dominated the headlines for reasons unrelated to deleted text messages. The list goes on: Ohio State was followed by Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State to give the division an amount of top-level depth unmatched by any other in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
That was wrong. Through two weeks, the best division in the country is the SEC West. And it’s not close.
First off, let’s give some credit to Ohio State for looking the part in topping Oregon State and Rutgers to start the year. Good teams beat bad teams; the Buckeyes destroyed a pair of bad teams. Penn State rebounded from a close call against Appalachian State to take care of business on Saturday night against Pittsburgh. Michigan’s offense improved against Western Michigan after an awful showing in a loss to Notre Dame. Michigan State could be worthy of its place in the top half of the Amway Coaches Poll. These are good teams.
Now look at the SEC West. I can report that Alabama remains Alabama. If anything, sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa makes the Crimson Tide more dangerous than ever. It’s safe to say that Alabama is one of the best teams in the country. It’s not a stretch.
LSU topped Miami (Fla.) in a neutral-site opener and kicked some sand in the face of its detractors. Mississippi State went to Kansas State and just beat the tar out of Bill Snyder and the Wildcats, validating a good part of the preseason hype surrounding Joe Moorhead’s first season. Auburn’s win against Washington in last week’s opener told us that the best team in the Pac-12 Conference – and very likely one of the top teams in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision – isn’t quite as good as the second-best team in the SEC.
To hammer this point home, think about Clemson’s two-point win against Texas A&M. Clemson is very easily one of the elite programs in the FBS and one of the top contenders for this year’s national championship. Texas A&M is just getting started under Jimbo Fisher. At best, the Aggies are the fifth-best team in the SEC West, behind Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State.
So the fifth-best team in this division took the nation’s No. 2 team to the wire and lost by less than a field goal. That pretty much says it all. Through two weeks, the debate isn’t really a debate at all: Every division is chasing the SEC West.